THE POSITION OF THE COPTIC CHURCH ON FEMALE GENITAL MUTILATION (FGM)
THE COPTIC CHURCH: FEMALE GENITAL MUTILATION IS UNCHRISTIAN AND CONTRADICTORY TO GOD’S WILL
FEMALE GENITAL MUTILATION IS STILL PRACTICED BY SOME COPTS IN CONSEQUENCE OF SOCIETAL PRESSURE FROM THE DOMINANT MUSLIM SOCIETY
FEMALE GENITAL MUTILATION WITHIN THE COPTS MUST STOP. IT’S FOREIGN, BARBARIAN PRACTICE
THE COPTS, CLERGY AND LAITY, NEED TO DO MORE TO ERADICATE FGM
H.G. BISHOP YOUSSEF MUST BE COMMENDED FOR HIS BRAVE POSITION
THE COPTIC CHURCH OPINION ON FGM IS NOT ONLY RELEVANT TO CHRISTIANS BUT TO ALL EGYPTIAN WOMEN
Female genital mutilation (FGM) has no religious textual backing in Christianity (as it has in Islam), or any support by the Coptic Church. In fact, the Coptic Church clearly and openly opposes the practice of female genital mutilation and finds it contradictory to divine values.
One of the largest bishoprics of the Coptic Church is the Coptic Orthodox Diocese of the Southern United States, which was established by the late Pope Shenouda III (1971 – 2012) in 1993. The Diocese covers the following states: Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Tennessee, and Texas. It includes 26 Coptic communities with 37 churches that are currently served by 44 priests. His Grace Bishop Youssef, one of the most learned and dynamic bishops of the Coptic Church, oversees it.
In the official site of the Diocese, Bishop Youssef asks the important question: What is the Christian perspective on Female Genital Mutilation? And he unambiguously answers that female genital mutilation is “contrary to divinely revealed principles.” Very clearly, he states that female genital mutilation destroys human life and disfigures God’s creation – the female body is part of that creation, which was seen by God as very good; and it shouldn’t be interfered with. Further, female genital mutilation is “detrimental to health, threatening to life, and harmful to sexual function,” and, therefore, it “contradicts the will of God.” Adding to the opposition to this practice is the fact that it threatens healthy childbirth. Furthermore, God has blessed marriage as the Bible says, “Let your fountain be blessed, and rejoice with the wife of your use.” Female genital mutilation, therefore, Bishop Youssef says, is a violation of God’s blessing of, and defying of His intention for, marriage – that is, as the lay reader will understand, the rejoicing and enjoying, wife and husband together, of each other’s body and life.
Female Genital Mutilation is practiced by some Copts in Egypt, particularly in Upper Egypt, as a matter of assimilation to the Muslim majority. This must stop. There is no doubt that Bishop Youssef’s answer to the question about the Christian perspective of female genital mutilation is that of the Coptic Church; however, to be more effective in stopping the barbarian practice, other bishops of the Coptic Church must speak out against it more strongly. One is optimistic that, in the near future, Pope Tawadros II will condemn this very unchristian practice at the highest level, and lead the Coptic Church Holy Synod to issue an ecclesiastical canon banning it as contrary to God’s will. Meanwhile, Coptic organisations must work harder to educate the Copts on this issue: practices that have been followed by centuries die hard, but we can present female genital mutilation not just as unchristian, risky and unhealthy, but, also, as barbarian and foreign to us.